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Hook 'em Horns

This article is about University of Texas at Austin hand gesture. For other uses of this hand gesture, see sign of the horns.
Not to be confused with Hook 'em (mascot).
A fan displays the Hook 'em Horns during a Texas football game versus Arkansas.

Hook 'em Horns is the slogan and hand signal of The University of Texas at Austin. Students and alumni of the university employ a greeting consisting of the phrase "Hook 'em" or "Hook 'em Horns" and also use the phrase as a parting good-bye or as the closing line in a letter or story.

The gesture is meant to approximate the shape of the head and horns of the UT mascot, the Texas Longhorn Bevo. The sign is made by extending the index and pinky fingers while grasping the second and third fingers with the thumb. The arm is usually extended, but the sign can also be given with the arm bent at the elbow. The sign is often seen at sporting events, during the playing of the school song "The Eyes of Texas",[1] and during the playing of the school fight song "Texas Fight". It is one of the most recognized hand signals of all American universities. A variant of the Horns, formed upside down with the thumb pointed outward, is often used by rivals of the Longhorns and is considered insulting, especially when performed by a player or coach of the team in question.


File:Hook em bush.jpg
George W. Bush displays the Hook 'em Horns.

The first known usage of the "Hook 'em" phrase can be attributed to the University of Minnesota through the 1930s. Just like the 12th Man, however, Minnesota didn't trademark the phrase or the hand signal. Neither did the University of Iowa. There was also a Texas basketball team during this era known as the "Hook 'Em Cows" which may have contributed to the use of the phrase and gesture at the University of Texas.[2] Harley Clark later introduced the Hook 'em Horns sign in 1955. Clark was a member of the Tejas Club, as well as head cheerleader at UT, a position that was elected by the student body. "It was second only in importance to the Texas governor," he jokes.[3] Clark got the idea for the hand-sign from his colleagues Tom Butts and Henry Pitts, who had been casting shadows on the wall at the Texas Union.[4] In addition, the "gig 'em" thumbs up hand signal created by archrival Texas A&M University twenty five years earlier was growing in popularity across the state and a similar hand signal was desired by The University of Texas.[5] Clark showed an enthusiastic student body the sign a few nights later at a football pep rally at Gregory Gym. According to Neal Spelce, who attended the rally when he was a student at the university, "a lot of people didn't get it right at first,"[6] but it caught on rapidly from there. By the thousands, students extended an arm to create the now famous salute. The next day, at the Texas Longhorn vs. TCU football game, Clark stood in awe as the "Hook 'em Horns" hand sign surged from one side of the stadium to the other. UT went on to lose that game to the Jim Swink led TCU Horned Frogs 47 to 20. Ironically, the "Gig 'em Aggies" yell was created at a Midnight Yell practice at Texas A&M in 1930, also before a game against TCU.

Within a few years, the symbol was widely known to football fans across the state and country. Sports Illustrated featured the Hook 'em Horns symbol in front of a Texas pennant on the cover of their 10 September 1973 issue.[7] That issue of the magazine highlighted the Texas football program as the best in the nation at that time.[7] That title was usurped shortly thereafter as the Longhorns proceeded to lose their very next game (Miami-20, UT-13), followed a few weeks later by a drubbing from the University of Oklahoma (OU-52, UT-13).[8]

Beginning in 2004, The University of Texas has featured the slogan in a television advertisement titled "Rallying Cry". The advertisement is one of nine ads that make up the "What Starts Here Changes the World" campaign, all of which are narrated by university alumnus Walter Cronkite. The narration for "Rallying Cry" is:

Is there a rallying cry for the thinkers and doers of tomorrow? A motto that sums up their passion for creativity and their pursuit of discovery? Sure there is: "Hook 'em, Horns". We're Texas. What starts here...changes the world.[9]

The hand gesture is not featured in the advertisement, which shows an aerial view flying along Interstate 35, then over downtown Austin, Texas, past the Texas State Capitol and finally arriving at the Tower of the Main Building as Cronkite says the slogan. The advertisements are typically run during NCAA sporting events.

Identical uses of the gesture

Main article: Sign of the horns

In some European cultures, the identical corna gesture is used to suggest spousal infidelity or Satanic association. Images of Jenna Bush publicly "throwing the horns" resulted in startled reactions in Norway and caused the First Lady's press secretary, Gordon Johndroe, to giggle when he discovered the gesture means bullshit in sign language.[10]

In 1985, five Americans were arrested, due to its satanic connotations after dancing and displaying the gesture in front of the Vatican.[11] In Russia, it's a derogatory symbol for the newly rich, arrogant and poorly educated.[12]

The sign is also heavily used as a symbol for Heavy Metal music and sub-culture.

Police in Columbus, Georgia told WXTX-TV in May 2010 that the symbol is used by members of the Uptown criminal gang.[citation needed]

Similar uses for college athletics

Fans of the University of South Florida Bulls use the same hand sign at their athletic events, except that the hand is turned around and facing the other way. With the middle and ring finger extending towards the person presenting the "Go Bulls" sign.

Fans of North Dakota State University Bison athletics also use a similar hand gesture, known as "Go Bison!" The pinky and index fingers are usually slightly bent, however, to mimic the shape of a bison's horns.

Fans of North Carolina State University Wolfpack athletics use a similar gesture with the middle and ring fingers moving up and down over the thumb to mimic a wolf's jaw

Fans of University of California, Irvine Anteaters use a similar sign with the middle and ring fingers out to resemble the head of the mighty anteater.

Fans of University of Nevada, Reno Wolf Pack athletics use a similar sign with the middle and ring fingers out to resemble the wolf's snout.

Fans of University of Utah athletics, particularly football and gymnastics, use a gesture where the index and pinky finger are straight and parallel to each other, forming a block "U." [13]

Fans of Northwestern State University Demon athletics also use a similar hand gesture, known as "Fork 'em!" The pinky and index fingers are extended but a little more parallel to each other resembling the horns on a demon.

Arizona State University Sun Devil fans make a pitchfork sign by extending the index and middle fingers, as well as the pinky. The thumb holds down the ring finger to complete the gesture.

Fans of the Wichita State University Shockers frequently hold up their middle finger in addition to the pointer and pinky fingers as a reference to the comic sexual act.

In popular culture

  • In 2006, country rap artist Cowboy Troy released a single called "Hook 'em Horns" as a tribute to The University of Texas at Austin.
  • Professional wrestling stable The Bullet Club use the gesture because they are, in fact, too sweet.
  • Professional wrestler Stan Hansen used the Hook 'em Horns as his signature taunt.
  • WWE Superstar Edge also makes use of the symbol during his entrances for wrestling (as the Devil Horns), and used it to openly mock Jim Ross who was an Oklahoma Sooners Football fan during a June 2008 episode of Raw.
  • Former UT football player Roy Williams flashed the symbol after scoring his first touchdown as a Dallas Cowboy.
  • Former UT and current Oklahoma City Thunder basketball player Kevin Durant frequently displays a Hook 'em Horns hand sign, much to the chagrin of local residents, due to the long and storied rivalry between UT and the University of Oklahoma Sooners.[14][15]
  • Former UT and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Vince Young was involved in an altercation outside a Dallas strip club on June 13, 2010 after being provoked by another patron who flashed him an upside-down Hook 'em Horns sign.[16]
  • Clarence "Kick" Buttowski, a character in Disney's Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil frequently used a variant of the Hook 'em Horns as his victory sign.


  1. ^ "Lady Bird Johnson Funeral - The Eyes of Texas". Retrieved 2007-08-03. 
  2. ^ Popik, Barry (2006-12-31). "Texas, The Lone Star State: “Hook “Em Horns” & “Hook ‘Em Cows”". Retrieved 2014-03-19. 
  3. ^ Proud Traditions: Hook 'em Horns Mack Brown-Texas Football.
  4. ^ "Hook 'em Horns". UT Traditions. University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 2011-08-18. 
  5. ^ Burka, Paul. "Football Hand Signals". Texas Monthly. Archived from the original on 2007-02-07. Retrieved 2011-08-18. 
  6. ^ Clark, Noelene. 50 years of 'Hook 'em Horns' The Daily Texan. October 21, 2005.
  7. ^ a b "No. 1 - Hook 'em Horns!". Sports Illustrated. 1973-09-10. 
  8. ^ "Football". HornFans. Retrieved 2014-03-19. 
  9. ^ What Starts Here Changes the World: TV Spots Inside UT.
  10. ^ "Jenna's Mixed Signals". NY Daily News. 2005-01-21. Retrieved 2014-03-19. 
  11. ^ The Definitive Book of Body Language, p. 123, Allan Pease, ISBN 0-7528-6118-2
  12. ^ Douglas, Jr., Jack (2005-01-23). "'Hook 'em Horns' sign has different meanings in different cultures". The Victoria Advocate. p. 7C. Retrieved 2014-03-19. 
  13. ^ "MUSS - Student Cheer Section for the U of U Utes - University of Utah Alumni Association | MUSS". 2011-03-18. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  14. ^ "Kevin Durant offers advice for slumping Texas | College Sports Blog". 2010-02-16. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  15. ^ MIKE FINGER, Austin Bureau (2009-02-25). "Durant has jersey retired at halftime of UT-Tech game - Houston Chronicle". Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  16. ^ Calvin WatkinsESPNDallas.comFollowArchive (2010-06-14). "Tennessee Titans' Vince Young given citation by Dallas police after fight at strip club - ESPN". Retrieved 2012-08-13. 

External links

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